With two games remaining in the regular season, the Warren County High School volleyball team has built a 13-0 record in conference play this season, placing the Eagles at the top of the Tar Roanoke 1A standings.
Going into the season, the team faced the uncertainty of competing in a newly-formed conference. Coach April Macon, who coached varsity basketball last year, was preparing for her first season as WCHS varsity volleyball coach.
However, the unblemished conference record proves that Macon and her team have met the challenges of the 2021 season head-on and emerged victorious.
This season’s accomplishments are especially gratifying for the Eagles because they first had to overcome challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Would enough students want to join the team?
Macon said that summer workouts began with a small number of girls. More students joined the team as workouts continued, with the final additions to the team joining the roster after school started.
The summer workouts gave Macon a glimpse of what could be possible during the 2021 season.
“I worked hard with those girls,” she said. “I knew we had a lot of potential. We have worked very hard this season.”
The volleyball team has a 10-player roster: senior Nakira Bullock; juniors Mia Fleming, Logan Ross, Jamari Moss and Amiyah Williams; sophomores Chaliyah Richardson, Anna Neal, Alana Lynch and Key-Niah Lloyd; and freshman Mikhia Pettaway.
This year, the Eagles were going to face opponents that past volleyball teams likely had not played, so they went to work on the basics, especially passing and serving. They also worked on passing the ball to the setter, the player who puts the ball in position for the attackers.
Macon noted that the Eagles went from having no setters last year to having two this season.
“We would be able to force points,” she said.
When they mastered the basics, they moved on to other skills.
Through practice and game action, several standout players emerged. Macon described senior Bullock as the team leader.
“She’s not always the most vocal,” Macon said. “She leads by example.”
However, when she needs to, Bullock doesn’t hesitate to challenge a player who doesn’t seem to be hustling enough, Macon added, describing Bullock’s hard work on the floor.
“When the ball is about to hit the floor, she runs across the court to get it,” the coach said.
Macon described junior Moss as sports-oriented, someone who quickly picks up the skills of whatever sport she is playing. A versatile athlete, she also plays softball.
“She is a very good server,” Macon said. “She is very vocal, a team leader, great player and athlete.”
The coach praised sophomore Neal for being willing to step up to a new position.
“She’s a great setter,” Macon said. “I told her she would be a setter. She stepped up a whole lot. She is a softball player, very athletic.”
Macon described sophomore Richardson as a hard worker.
“She is a setter, very vocal and supportive of her teammates,” the coach said.
Macon praised all members of her team for their drive to make each other better.
“A lot have stepped up to be team leaders in different ways,” she said.
During conference play, the Eagles faced an especially tough opponent in Weldon.
“Weldon hustles. They are very athletic,” Macon said. “They played the net and ran for anything we hit. They ran for it before it hit the floor.”
The Eagles have shut out many of their opponents this year, including Weldon.
The only blemishes on their record this year came against J.F. Webb, a member of the North Carolina Division 2A East conference.
Not only did the J.F. Webb team come from a larger school; it also featured players active in travel volleyball year-round, Macon said.
Warren County lost both of its games against J.F. Webb, but the coach was proud of her team’s effort.
“We played at a higher level than usual (against J.F. Webb),” Macon said. “(The team) was down about the loss, but I told them that the level they can play is great.”
She plans to schedule more non-conference games next season to give her team more opportunities to play against these higher-level teams.
Warren County will wrap up their conference schedule with two games on the road. They travel to Wilson Prep on Thursday and to Rocky Mount Prep on Tuesday, Oct. 19. Both games begin at 5 p.m.
On Oct. 21, the Eagles will learn their placement in the state playoffs. Macon anticipates that they will be a No. 1 seed, meaning that Warren County would be a host site in the first round.
No matter what happens, Macon is proud of what her team has achieved this year.
“I am very proud of the team and the hard work they put in to achieve what they have achieved,” she said.
Macon is excited about next season, too. With only one senior set to graduate, she will enter the 2022 season with the building blocks of a good team already in place.
“We should come back stronger next year,” Macon said.